If you’re taking a river cruise which explores France’s beautiful Bordeaux region, then there’s every chance you’ll visit Blaye on your travels. Blaye sits on the Gironde River on the right bank of the Gironde estuary, and is around 35 miles north of Bordeaux. If you’re travelling inland, it is the last river port you’ll visit before the Gironde converges with the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. The town started off life as a port occupied by the ancient Gaul tribe the Santones and was formerly known as Blaye-et-Sainte-Luce until its name was shortened to ‘Blaye’ in 1961. The Frankish hero Roland is said to have been buried in the town’s basilica, where the famous citadel now stands. Indeed, the citadel is key to the town’s history, as it played an important role in the wars against the English and Spanish.
The main attraction in Blaye is undoubtedly the ruins of its aforementioned 17th century citadel, which is set in the rock beside the river and was built by France’s leading military engineer at the time, Vauban. Along with the town’s walls and its two Forts – Pate and Medoc – the citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it also holds within its ruins a gothic chateau, which houses the tomb of Charibert II, king of Aquitaine. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of river cruise excursions typically offer a guided tour of the castle, on which you’ll get to learn all about its fascinating history.
If you find yourself with a little more time to spend in Blaye, then another popular attraction within walking distance of the citadel is the Chateau Marquis de Vauban winery. Here, visitors can sample vintages from the Medoc region and tailor their visit to suit and the winery offers guided tours, wine-tastings, a wine-grower’s lunch and for something a little different, horse carriage tours of its picturesque grounds. If you want to make viticulture the focus of your visit to Blaye but feel like something a little more personalised, then Villa St Simon offers a number of private tours.
Unsurprisingly, Blaye is a great place to sample a vintage red or two but it also boasts quite a large number of quality restaurants for its size offering all manner of authentic French cuisine on their menus.
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